You know this story all too well: You buy a new piece of jewelry and start wearing it everywhere. You're loving and living in your new sparkly piece, but then it begins to lose its luster. What was once a pair of twinkling hoop earrings or a flashy necklace has become dull and, in the worst-case scenarios, stains your skin a ghoulish green-gray. The solution: If you want pieces you can wear daily as a second skin (you're busy! You don't have the time to unclasp your bracelet stack every morning before stepping in the shower), the best waterproof jewelry will stay shiny forever.
"Not a surprise here, but not all jewelry is created equally," Sophie Kahn, the founder of jewelry brand AUrate, details over email. Pieces made from copper or nickel are prone to oxidization, and gold- or silver-plated styles are more likely to lose their coating over time, leaving you with tarnished pieces a far cry from the high-shine jewelry you once bought. Whereas waterproof jewelry, she explains, is tarnish-proof, fade-resistant, and won't ever lose its lustrous look over time—even when wearing it while you sweat, swim, and sleep.
Ahead, Kahn and Catarina Oliveira, the CEO of the affordable jewelry brand Hey Harper, break down everything you need to know about water-resistant jewelry, including the metals to look for and how to find pieces without completely obliterating your budget. You'll also discover a master edit of waterproof jewelry to shop, so you can stock up on styles ahead of any beach vacations or pool days you have planned for summer 2023.
What Metals Are Waterproof?
- Solid Gold
"In short, solid gold—14k or 18k, for example—is your best bet for waterproof jewelry, thanks to its purity," explains Kahn. It's the real deal (and typically with a real eye-popping price tag attached), not blended with any quick-to-fade metal alloys, and hypoallergenic to boot. Genuine solid gold jewelry is fool-proof and won't be affected by any day-to-day activities. Take it from Kahn: "I’m guilty of showering in my jewelry and proud of it!"
- Stainless Steel
Oliveira calls stainless steel, an iron, carbon, magnesium, and chromium alloy, "a highly durable metal loved for being corrosion-resistant." However, you'll want to pay a close eye to the grade of stainless steel because this is where you might run into some rust: lower grades are more likely to tarnish; higher ones—look for 316 and 304, for instance—won't. "In [Hey Harper's] case, our jewelry is coated with a ten times stronger coating process than the usual gold plating. This process is called PVD, Physical Vapor Deposition, and is the most modern coating process available in the market, increasing the lifespan of our jewelry by making it waterproof," the CEO explains.
- The 'Um's: Platinum, Palladium, Titanium, and Aluminum
Lastly, any jewelry made from the four noble metals ending in "um"—platinum, palladium, titanium, and aluminum—won't react to water and is corrosion-resistant, therefore ensuring it holds onto its shine throughout it all. "You can live your everyday life and not worry about taking off your jewelry when showering, working out, or taking a dip in the ocean—the pieces won’t tarnish," describes Oliveira of jewelry made from the strong and sturdy metals.
What to Keep in Mind
- Metal Content
"First tip: Make sure you check the metal content of what you're shopping for and see if there's anything that could be reactive to water: something made of brass or with a high copper content would possibly react, giving you the notorious green finger," explains Kahn. "If there's iron in the jewelry, it will potentially even rust. If the jewelry is made with glue as a bond, that will weaken over time with exposure to water."
- Additional Gems
"Second tip: Look at the legitimacy of the gems or diamonds—if you're shopping DTC, check to see if they're labeling it as imitation, created, etc. Real gemstones and diamonds won't generally be affected by water," Kahn shares.
Solid gold jewelry can run you up into the mid-to-high hundreds (and more, depending on the brand and piece), so Oliveira encourages you to keep an eye on your budget. "For everyone looking for quality jewelry at fair prices, pieces designed and produced with stainless steel are a great option. Owning waterproof jewelry that can last a lifetime should not be reserved for only a select few individuals," she details, adding that her brand's "mission is to democratize high-quality designer jewelry."
You likely already have a pair of statement earrings, whether that be large diamond studs, dangly chains, or a sculptural set. But for the earrings you reach for daily, you'll want to seek classic hoops or studs. And when the pair is waterproof, as the ones included below are, you don't ever have to take them out, simplifying your accessorizing process. Oliveira recommends trying a pair of stainless steel earrings: firstly, for their easy convenience and, secondly, for their affordability. "[They will] last a long time without being replaced or breaking, and it doesn't rust or tarnish, so the color remains perfect for a lifetime," she explains.
Disregarding statement bauble chains or costume-y chokers, a wear-everyday necklace, one you can live in without worries, is an essential component for any jewelry box. Speaking of necklaces to live in: "My favorite [waterproof necklace] and the perfect everyday piece is Hey Harper's Nassau Necklace, which is also our absolute bestseller," says Oliveira. "It is an elegant slim size gold chain, perfect for layering or to make a statement on its own."
Rings experience the most wear and tear, given that they live on your fingers, so waterproofing is a vital component in extending their lifespan. "I'd have to say one of my favorite [waterproof rings] is our Bold Baguette Ring, both in 14k (or 18k if you prefer)," gushes Kahn. "I truthfully never take my Aurate jewelry off and have worn [the ring] in the shower, the bath, the ocean, the pool, and even the delivery room, if you could believe it. I’m probably our toughest quality critic because of where I wear our gold—if it lasts for me, it should last, period."
Like rings, you want to ensure your bracelets are solidly waterproof, as every time you wash your hands, the piece will be exposed to H2O and soap. Kahn emphasizes, however, that even when the jewelry itself is water-resistant and durable, you should still properly maintain and care for your jewelry just in case. "You can always remove any watermarks or dirt brought on by your rambunctious lifestyle with some gentle soap and water," she shares.
Once you've stocked your jewelry box with water-resistant earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings, now you can move on to the oft-forgotten piece—anklets. The ankle-adorning style is ideal for summer, too, as your legs are readily on display, which is all the more reason to ensure the anklet you buy can withstand any water-based seasonal activities. Opt for a dainty chain like those offered by minimal jewelry brand Catbird or make more of a statement with a motif piece like Sydney Evan's evil eye number.
Meet the Experts
Sophie Kahn is the Founder of Aurate. She hails from the Netherlands and has a background in fashion working as a Project Manager and Director of Strategy at Marc Jacobs.
Catarina Oliveira is the founder and CEO of Hey Harper. She created Hey Harper to eliminate the biggest gap in this industry: high quality at fair prices. Oliveira previously worked at the advertising agency Sonder as the Head of Operations and Head of Product.
Emma Childs is the Style Editor at Marie Claire, where she researches up-and-coming trends, curates shopping guides, and gushes about the must-buy items she can't stop thinking about. She previously wrote for TZR, Editorialist, Elite Daily, and Mission Magazine and studied Fashion Studies and New Media at Fordham University. When she's not writing up fashion deep-dives or finding the season's best pieces, you'll find her fiddling around in Photoshop and perusing HBO Max for the next show to base her personality on (currently, it's "Succession").
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